It is characteristic of Il Mosnel that the current generation, Giulio and Lucia Barzanò, have both inherited a fine, traditional country estate with 40 hectares of mature vines and that Lucia is a blogger and hosted last year’s European Bloggers Conference. They combine tradition and modernity in an apparently effortless way and strive to promote the good name of Franciacorta in the bottle and on the information superhighway.
The vines here are 70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Bianco and just 10% Pinot Noir, and the estate is in organic conversion – the spring flowers, ie weeds, were putting on a spectacular show during our sunny visit. In the winery the utmost care is taken with the handling of the grapes and must: whole bunch pressing of course, selection of the best two thirds of the juice, smaller fermentation vessels to increase the amount of contact with the lees, time on the lees after second fermentation in the bottle which exceeds what is required: 24 months for non-vintage instead of 18, 36 months for vintage wines instead of 30, 60 months for the top wine. A significant proportion of the wines are fermented in old oak barrels – for added structure and longevity.
After a comprehensive tour of the winery, we taste through the range … with a surprise at the end. The Brut NV is 60% Chardonnay, half of which is fermented in barriques, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10 % Pinot Noir, and had pleasant yeasty notes, good balance and fair acidity. Super fine bubbles and ripe fruit completed the picture. Pasdosé NV was interestingly less expressive on the nose but finer in the mouth, a greater attack as you would expect for a wine that has less than 1% of residual sugar, all deriving from the original grapes. The Brut Rosé NV is made from 40% Pinot Noir, subject to a very short maceration to extract the pale onion skin colour (see below), 40% Chardonnay and the rest Pinot Bianco. Very pleasant red and apricot fruit, a bit of residual sugar (9g/l), fragrant and obviously softer than the previous wine, this succeeds in being a very attractive aperitif which would also go well with lighter dishes.
Our tasting continued with the Franciacorta speciality, Satèn, Since the Champenois gave up the term Crémant in a deal with other French sparkling wine regions, the slightly less fizzy version of sparkling wine has been a wine style in search of a well recognised term. In Italy, Satèn does the job, sounding ‘silky’ like the Italian word for silk, seta. According to the Franciacorta rules this must be blanc de blanc and only 4.5 bar, not the 6 more typically encountered in bottle-fermented sparkling wine. This version, Satèn 2008, is 100% Chardonnay and uniquely for Il Mosnel, 40% is fermented in newer barriques. So here Satèn is not a light aperitif but a wine to accompany food: pronounced nose, peach and ripe fruit accompanied by pleasant vanilla notes, creamy bubbles as per the style of wine, a good structure on the palate and finishing acidity.
The best series of wines is of course saved to last. Extra Brut EBB 2007 carries the current generation’s mother’s initials and so has to be very good indeed. It is a selection of Chardonnay from five top vineyards and fermented in neutral small barrels. With just 5g/l of residual sugar and with a full body it is intended to be drunk with food, just as you would drink fuller Champagnes. Same beautiful fruit as in all these wines only both subtle and more structured, with good balance and finish. The word play continues with Pas Rosé 2006, ie a non-dosage vintage rosé wine, 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay: a very beautiful array of red fruit and old oak aromas, rounded and structured in the mouth, noticeably long and with excellent balance. Said to go well with il roast beef for the English visitors – or of course tagliata di manzo for Italians.
The final sparkling wine is the Riserva, QDE, Pas Dosé 2004, disgorged in July 2010. I initially wrote QDE as Cudie … and you can be forgiven for looking puzzled: it stands for Questione di Etiquetta, a competition for designer labels and packaging, the winner one each occasion being used for the wine which was deemed to be good enough to prompt the production of a riserva. As we said above this estate combines a strong sense of history and modernity. And from the label, you can see that Italian design is alive and well – simple, stylish, opulent, full of impact. This wine is a selection, not a cru, made only in the best years with the best Chardonnay (75%) and Pinot Noir, barrel fermented, and has a full five years on the lees after second fermentation. Balance is maintained with just 12.5% alcohol: a great combination of ripe fruit and yeasty and mineral structure, toasted hazelnuts, fine, rich and very drinkable at the same time.
The best estates are always looking for something new, something no one else is doing, so how about a passito made from Chardonnay? A passito is typically a sweet or at least concentrated wine made from semi-dried grapes, nearly always made with local grape varieties – Moscato, Trebbiano/Malvasia, etc. So let’s try the same trick with the premium white grape of this region, our old friend Chardonnay. Sulif Passito 2009, Sebino Passito IGT, 14.5% was definitely worth the experiment: lovely dried and fresh apricot notes, subtle but pleasant oak, moderately sweet, pronounced flavour, excellent. It looks beautiful too.
Many thanks to Lucia and all at Il Mosnel. We were very lucky with the weather but this is undoubtedly a beautiful place and a testament to all your hard work for your estate and for the Franciacorta region.
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